Bay Street businesses feeling pinch of bridge squeeze

Some Bay Street businesses are worried about falling customer numbers now that a five-month construction project has started to upgrade the Point Ellice Bridge.

Only four customers showed up for lunch Wednesday at the Moon Under Water Brewery and Pub at 350B Bay St., said Anne Farmer, co-owner of the family business. “It was dead. I had to send a server home before she even started,” Farmer said. “The other server — she’s just cleaning things.”

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She said people are reluctant to come to the Rock Bay area because only one-way traffic is allowed. “We would like the city to compensate us for loss of revenue,” Farmer said, although she doesn’t know yet how much that would be.

Customer numbers dropped when the one-way traffic came into effect Tuesday, she said.

The city has closed eastbound traffic on the bridge, which means motorists can only use one lane to head west, out of downtown toward Vic West. Bridge improvements will cost $6.1 million.

Moon Under Water has 104 seats in the pub and 30 seats in the lounge and employs 28 staff, Farmer said.

Another hardship for the business is that bus service has been rerouted because of the construction. Many customers and staff rely on buses, she said.

Farmer said that city officials did not talk to their business about the construction plan.

“I think it would been beneficial to sit down with the business owners in the area that rely on our customers and try to figure out the best way to do this.”

Victoria should “think twice about how they went about this,” she said.

She is urging her customers to come to the pub. “It’s a family business. We need the support.”

Next door, at Saltchuck Pie Company, 360 Bay St., owner Nick Crooks is hoping to help make up for a loss of business by setting up the company’s food truck on the west side of the bridge in Castle Building Centre’s parking lot at 220 Bay St. The truck will be on site Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. initially. Crooks figures about half his customers come to the shop from the west side of the bridge.

Construction has already caused “quite severe” impact on his business, which opened in 2016 and has 10 staff.

Crooks also said he was not consulted about the traffic changes.

Vicki Hagel, who owns the Castle stores on Bay and on Cook streets with husband Frank, said business was “definitely slower at the Bay Street store today.”

Crooks approached the Bay Street store about putting the pie truck in the parking lot. “We thought what a great opportunity. We’ve got contractors who are here and they could do with a healthy lunch,” Hagel said. “We thought it was a good business-to-business venture,” and it would help attract business to that area.

City spokesman Sheldon Johnson said high traffic heavy industrial businesses on Bay Street were contacted by city representatives.

Victoria began informing the public of the coming work May 1 by posting signs around the area and also in public notices, such as press releases and social media, he said.

One-direction traffic is in place to minimize impacts and ensure the work gets done as soon as possible, Johnson said.

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